Can a Florida Judge Order Me to Buy Life Insurance to Guarantee My Alimony Obligations?
When a Florida court awards permanent alimony in a divorce case, it is usually “permanent” only until either former spouse dies. That is to say, an individual’s obligation to pay alimony ends upon their death. This raises the possibility that the receiving spouse may be left “high and dry” if the paying spouse dies suddenly or unexpectedly.
To guard against such contingencies, Florida courts will in some cases order the paying spouse to purchase a life insurance policy. This insurance serves as a security against the spouse’s support obligations. That way, if the paying spouse does suddenly pass away, the receiving spouse receives the benefits from the policy.
Need for Insurance May Depend on “Special Circumstances”
It is important to understand, however, that court-ordered life insurance policies are an exception and not the rule. Some Florida appeals courts have held that a trial judge should only issue such orders when “special circumstances” exist. As the Florida Second District Court of Appeals explained in a 2005 decision, Plichta v. Plichta, the trial judge must also consider several additional factors, including “the need for such insurance, the cost and availability of such insurance, and the financial impact upon the obligor.” And if the court does order the purchase of a life insurance policy, the judge needs to make it clear “whether the policy is to serve only as security for unpaid support obligations … or whether the policy is to minimize future economic harm to the surviving family through distribution of the entire proceeds to the beneficiaries upon the death of the obligor.”
In a more recent decision, Cooper v. Cooper, the Second District reversed a trial court’s order directing an ex-husband to purchase life insurance to guarantee his permanent alimony obligations to his ex-wife. The trial court held the ex-wife was entitled to $300,000 in permanent alimony. Although the appeals court agreed an award of permanent alimony was appropriate, it held the amount was excessive. Separately, the Second District said there was no valid basis for requiring the purchase of life insurance to guarantee the alimony obligation.
Citing its prior decision in Plichta, the Second District said the trial court did not make any finding of “special circumstances” that would necessitate a life insurance policy. And in fact, the ex-wife in the present case acknowledged the trial court failed to find any such circumstances existed.
Speak with a Boca Raton Family Law & Alimony Attorney Today
Even when a court does not issue a life insurance order, spouses who plan to separate or divorce may wish to consider purchasing such a policy voluntarily. If a couple has children, for example, a life insurance policy can help guarantee the family’s financial security in the event of an unanticipated event. An experienced Boca Raton family attorney can provide you with additional advice on this subject.
Contact WiseLieberman, PLLC, at 561-468-7788 to schedule a free consultation today regarding divorce, alimony, or any related matter.